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Cook County blows past 2014 early vote total with six days to go

(Tanya Moutzalias/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)

With several days left for early voting, residents in suburban Cook County have already cast more ballots than they did for the entire early voting period in Illinois’ last governor’s race.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 131,631 people in suburban Cook County have filled out a ballot for the general election on Tuesday. That’s according to the office of the Cook County Clerk, which conducts elections in Cook County outside of Chicago.

That’s 3,620 more than were cast in the whole early voting period in 2014. And since early voting extends through Monday, Nov. 5, Cook County residents will have plenty of time to build on that lead.

Things don’t seem to be slowing down. In all, 17,980 people voted in suburban Cook County Tuesday, the most of any day so far this cycle. In 2014, more than 40 percent of the early vote was cast after the Tuesday before election day.

The same trend is expected in Chicago according to Jim Allen, the spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

“No matter what year it is, no matter what type of election it is, [early voting] always increases significantly in the final days as more people resolve to get out and cast their ballots. That trend hasn’t changed once in 13 years, it always looks like the side view of a ski slope going up,” Allen said.

The early vote so far, though, for both Chicago and Cook County is significantly lower than for those areas in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election.

RELATED: Sun-Times Voting Guide

In Chicago, 102,622 early votes had been cast as of Tuesday, an almost 40 percent increase in early voting over 2014 up to the same date, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

In a news release, Cook County Clerk David Orr attributed the increased numbers to voter interest in races on the ballot and his office’s efforts to promote early voting.

Chicago is headed toward its own milestone: according to Allen, the city is set to beat its record for mail in ballots set in 1944, in the midst of World War II.

But Allen signaled caution about predicting huge turnout increases based on early numbers: the changing habits of voters, and efforts by the Board and campaigns to encourage different voting methods, might account for the shift.

“We’re encourage by these numbers, but you never want to read to much into them. We hope its a sign of a strong turnout, but you never want to speculate,” Allen said.

In another potential sign of engagement with the coming election, the clerk’s office reported that more suburban Cook County residents are registered to vote in the coming election than in any year since at least 1990.

They’ll be voting for governor, other state-wide elected officials, and Congressional representatives. Some Cook County residents will casting ballots in the tightly fought re-election campaign for Rep. Peter Roskam, the last Republican in Congress to represent part of Cook County.

In suburban Cook County, people casting early ballots skewed older: more than 80 percent are more than 50 years old, and more than 60 percent were older than 60. People between 18 and 29 years old made up less than 5 percent of the early voting electorate so far.

In an election in which enthusiasm among female voters is expected to be an important factor, women made up 54.5 percent of the first week of early suburban votes.

In Chicago, 59 percent of mail-in ballots have been cast by female voters, beating their share of registered voters.

“They’re outperforming their registration by 5 percent. Or males are underperforming their registration by 5 percent. Take your pick,” Allen said.

The busiest suburban polling sites were most concentrated in northern Cook County, though the overall leader was south suburban Orland Park. One of two polling places in Cicero was the only site where more than 600 votes have not yet been cast.

View this document on ScribdMidterm elections in suburban Cook County have typically seen turnout of about 50 percent of registered voters over the last decade.

The 53 early voting locations in suburban Cook County will be open till 7 p.m. this week and, in most locations, till 4 or 5 p.m this weekend.